It might be surprising to know, but I was a pastor in a church for almost 5 years and I have to say, today, I have never felt spiritually lower. I’m not having a crisis of faith. I know Jesus is Lord, I know Jesus is the Son of God; I can declare loudly that he is coming and he is King. But he has become more of an acquaintance than a friend. I think that has happened because I have lost sight of freedom. We are told that we live in a free society. Freedom is supposed to bring happiness. But if that’s true, then why am I – and others – so unhappy?
In our world, freedom means this “your fate lies in your hands.” In other words – I can do it! This reminds me of a children’s book that my kids love, called “The little engine that Could.” Essentially the story is this, a train has broken down on its way to deliver toys to a village of children. All the other trains are too important to help out, all except for one – a very little train. But there is a problem; this train might not be powerful enough to get over the mountain. It’s a struggle and a strain, a huff and a puff, but despite everything, the little train takes it all into his hands and he delivers the toys and becomes the hero of the village. The message? There is nothing you cannot do, the power to do anything lies in your hands, just get on and do it. That’s freedom, right? But here is the problem, I can’t – and no-one else can either.
I think the story of the little train that can is the gospel we preach in church. It’s the gospel I fear I have bought into. A gospel where freedom comes by taking a measure of control unto yourself and then add in the big helping hand of Jesus and we too can be the train puffing up the hill of glory saying “I think I can, I think I can,” until the day of reward comes when we can bask in heaven and say “I knew I could.”
For me, freedom is found in having the security of the best home I can provide for the best wife and kids. For other people it will be very different. Perhaps it’s having enough money, kicking a habit, breaking out of a cycle of despair. Whatever it is, our world tells us that power is in your hands and you can take it if you want it, to not want it is to be weak. There can be no rest for your soul until you seize freedom for yourself, until you take control of your situation and provide for yourself and your family.
I’ve bought into this and I have never been spiritually lower since I became a Christian than I am today. I wish I had some plan to break through. Pick up the Bible perhaps, start in Genesis and keep reading until I break the funk? Today, I think I need to start with just three verses – verses that redefine freedom.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I am carrying a heavy weight and maybe you are too. This could be illness, addiction, financial worries, concern for family, stress in your job or all of the above. But to be free, Jesus tells us, is not to take control of our lives. It’s not to take the burden in our hands and double our resolve in the power of His name that you are going to get through. To be free is to give up control. To be free is not to stop serving. But it is to stop servicing your burden and start serving Him. Freedom is not found in the mantra “I think I can”. Instead freedom comes when we say, “Jesus, I know I can’t.”